flexAmong the changes that my summer brought was a marked decrease in cycling. I still pick up my son from school by bike, but that amounts to about two miles a day. My commute to the book mines had increased to 16 miles a day before I left. A big change for a dude in his filthy forties. I was worried that I might start packing on some pounds if I didn’t do something, so I did what any geek does to solve a problem: I bought a gadget.

I’m a bit in love with metrics. I use a tracking app on my phone whenever I run. I can spend hours picking through web analytics. I’ve studied census reports just for fun. This makes the decision to buy a fitness tracker fairly obvious. I did a little research and decided on a Fitbit Flex. A nice balance of features and style for the price. It talks to my phone and I can get even more detailed reports through the web.

The wife and I ordered one each and waited impatiently for them to arrive. It took a little bit, as they seem to be backordered all over, but they came. The Flex is essentially a little piece of electronics squeezed into a silicone bracelet. There are two differently sized bracelets in the package, so they should accommodate all but the most freakish stems. The widget charges via a USB adapter and holds its charge for about a week.

I set it up and accepted most of the defaults. The basic goals are pretty reasonable, though the calorie burn seemed a bit high. I put it on and started wearing it every day. A series of LEDs tell your daily progress, so I quickly took to tapping it to see how close I was to my goal. The whole thing does a little vibrating, light flashing dance when you get there, a fine little celebration for my hard work.

In addition to the step counting/distance tracking, the Flex can act as a simple sleep tracker. It is somehow comforting to see a record of how little I sleep. It also detects when I have been restless or gotten out of bed. The data hasn’t changed my sleeping habits, but it is interesting.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my flex. It gives me just enough incentive to walk those five miles a day and get plenty of cardio. There are other features in the app that I’m not using but would certainly be useful for people who are more aggressive. I can use it to track calorie and water intake, but I don’t. It is enough for me to stay active.

I’m a big fan of my Flex. As a man approaching middle age with a taste for sweets and a general love of food, I have to be careful about my balance of activity versus intake, or else I could start to pack on pounds that will be hard to take off. The Fitbit helps me do that. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to keep myself on track.

It’s the right thing for a gadget head like me. It might be the right thing for anyone that wants a little help staying active.